In the Pakistan earthquake of 8 October 2005, over 8 000 schools were either destroyed or damaged beyond repair, over 17 000 school-age children perished, more than 20 000 suffered serious injuries and 853 teachers were killed. In the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, in which over 85% of building stock was destroyed, an estimated 10 000 schoolchildren died in their homes. Many countries in the region frequently experience strong earthquakes, disasters which exact enormous human and material costs. Yet the international community and national governments have not been able to provide reliable earthquake-resistant design, construction and maintenance of school buildings.
In November 2005, following approval of the OECD Recommendation Concerning Guidelines on Earthquake Safety in Schools, PEB and GeoHazards International met with officials from Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) to present the OECD's work on earthquake safety in schools. ECO is an intergovernmental regional organisation established in 1985 comprising ten member states: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The principal objective of ECO is to promote sustainable economic development in its member states.
At its meeting with PEB and GeoHazards, ECO agreed to organise an international workshop on earthquake safety in schools, which the Ministry of National Education, Turkey, offered to host in Istanbul on 1-2 June 2006. The main purpose of this workshop was to help evaluate the risk to life and property in the ECO region, and to explore the application of safety standards and construction codes for schools. Participants sought to identify and describe the scope for national action on school earthquake safety, with a view to developing a programme or system to provide guidance, technical expertise, support and resources for the ECO countries.
More than 25 participants from seven ECO member countries, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo attended the workshop. Panels of experts from Iran, Italy, Pakistan and Turkey addressed four main themes:
Identifying the problem. The performance of schools in past earthquakes in Iran, Pakistan and Turkey was discussed.
Addressing the problem. The panel examined methods of improving school earthquake safety – through preparedness and emergency response planning, safety standards and construction codes for building schools, and risk reduction in new facilities.
The way forward. PEB’s work on earthquake safety in schools was presented as an example of a strategy and programme for improving school earthquake safety.
Regional context. A panel of Turkish experts discussed seismicity and strengthening educational facilities of the region.
Workshop participants agreed that earthquake safety is an important, unifying concern for ECO member states, and that countries should continue to work together to address these issues and challenges for the good of schoolchildren and teachers. The recommendations of the workshop and further information are available at www.oecd.org/edu/schoolsafety.